We wanted to explore Africa and chose Morocco as our first venture on the continent. We were tempted by Casablanca with romantic images of dapper men in white suits and damsels in distress but decided on a more traditional route. We spent most of our time inside the medina in Marrakech and a couple of days lost in the labyrinth of Fès.
If you go to Morocco, a must buy is a woven rug. And if you are going to buy a rug in Morocco, you must be prepared to haggle.
We meandered from rug seller to rug seller, browsing, looking, until we decided to get serious. At the first sign of actual interest, the proprietor took us upstairs to a room stacked to the ceiling with carpets. One by one, a young boy took them down and displayed them on the floor at our feet while we sipped on sweet mint tea.
We saw a few we liked and started whittling them down to our favorites. Then the negotiations began. My husband took the lead while I listened and occasionally shook my head. The starting price was outrageously high. My husband patiently explained that we knew nothing about rugs or how much work went into making each one but thought they were all quite beautiful, and that we were on a budget. He made a counter-offer. Apparently it was outrageously low because our host threw his hands in the air and described the craftsmanship that went into each one in agonizing detail.
And so the conversation continued. The proprietor gave us another price. I opened my eyes wide with shock. My husband told him we would love to buy a rug from him since he had been so patient with us but it was too far off our budget. Another counter-offer. More detailed explanations. It continued like this for some time. I had another glass of mint tea. Finally, they agreed on a price. The proprietor exclaimed that he would not want to disappoint me by sending us home without a rug. We thanked him effusively.
As my husband handed him the agreed-upon price, the proprietor turns to me and exclaims, “Your husband is a Berber!” I can only deduce that meant that (a) my husband is cheap, or (b) a very good negotiator.
This is our Moroccan rug.